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The Basics

Can’t Need Not Be Permanent


I was listening to a podcast, when a listener’s email told a sad story. The listener identified himself as blind and was bemoaning his situation. Mostly, he was complaining about all the things he can’t do and how inconvenient it is to need someone around to care for him and his needs.


That got me to thinking about how easy it is for those of us who can’t see to confuse can’t with don’t know how. The specific issue in the listener’s email that caused me to ponder the confusion came when he said that he had to get someone who can see to hang a picture for him. His point was that his blindness prevents him from using a drill and makes it impossible for him to get the picture level and at the right height.


That’s just silly talk. I can’t see and know how to use a drill. I can’t see and know how to make sure a picture is level. I can’t see and know how to hang a picture at a good height for most people when they are looking at it. Being blind is not the reason why the listener can’t hang a picture on his wall. The reason is simple. He just doesn’t know how to hang the picture without being able to see.


Is the listener having his own pity party? Probably, but that is not my point. It’s true that he can’t do by looking. But just because he can’t do by looking doesn’t mean he can’t do.


Let me suggest a strategy for doing if you can’t see. Think of something – anything – that you think you can’t do because you can’t see. Now, start with the outcome. As clearly as you can, define what you want to achieve. I want this picture hanging appropriately on that wall. I want to be wearing my red shirt with my black pants. I want to be eating lasagna for dinner. I want to be pleased with the selection of groceries in my pantry. I want to be sitting on my friend’s patio chatting and having a cold drink. I want to be at a bookstore, signing copies of my new book. I want to be relaxing in my newly finished basement or perhaps on my new deck. I want to be listening to the latest episode of my podcast. I want to be attending my graduation from college. I want to use all of the features on my cell phone. I want to hike to the bottom of the Grand Canyon.


I know. It’s another one of those lists. But what goes on your list? What outcomes interest you?


Now that you have an outcome in mind, you’re ready for the second part of this strategy for doing without seeing. There are people who can’t see who know how to do all of the things on the list I have included here. Even better, there are people who can’t see who know how to do most everything on your list as well. But how do they do that?


They use the three strategies I mentioned earlier. They get someone who can see to do it for them. They get someone who can see to help them do it. They learn to do it for themselves. Whichever strategy they choose, they don’t confuse can’t see with can’t do.


Here’s the secret sauce. The people who are most successful at doing without seeing intentionally use all three of these strategies, taking care not to confuse can’t see with can’t do. It works like this.


I’ll first be clear about what I want. Then I’ll identify someone to will do it for me, while I carefully observe. Then, I’ll get them to help me do it myself. Finally, I’ll use my new skills to do it by myself.


• If it is to be, I’ll just need to learn how to do it for me.


You may have noticed that, so far, I haven’t suggested anything that only applies to those of us who can’t see. The tips all work quite well for people who can see, although for them, the tips may not be quite so essential.


The Secret Sauce


Well, I’m about to do it again. One of those tips that is essential for those of us who can’t see, but work almost as well for everyone else, is headed your way.


The harsh reality is this. If you can’t see, many, but definitely not all, people who can see make judgments about you based on little more than their personal generalizations about blindness and blind people. Unfortunately, those generalizations tend to be negative. Not negative in the sense of your being a bad person or somehow unacceptable, but negative in terms of being limited, less competent, more needy and ignorable.


A major contributor to these negative generalizations is that most people who can see have never known a successful, competent blind person. If they do know someone who can’t see, the likelihood is that the blind person they know is quite old, not involved in the mainstream of things, or both. Sure, it’s just another version of prejudice; but knowing that doesn’t help much when it is you who is the person being judged.


I agree. It’s not fair, not right and people who judge us without knowing us should be ashamed of themselves. There is another side to that particular coin though.


Many, but definitely not all people who can’t see, buy into the negative judgment habit. They sometimes behave as if other people should adjust to their issues and limitations. Since they can’t see, people should expect less, accommodate more and be more considerate of how difficult it is to get along when you can’t see. And the fact of it is that most people will expect less and accommodate more, at least until they get tired of it or start to suspect that you are taking advantage of their helpful nature.


Earlier, I suggested a few ways you can get past the tendency of people to put you in the blind box, depending on whatever they assume about people who can’t see. I can assure you that life is easier in the blind box, if you don’t mind staying on the fringe and mostly being ignored. If instead you do mind, do believe that you can swim in the mainstream, are committed to giving it your best effort, first be sure you are implementing the tips I have shared. Along with those tips, here’s another tip to incorporate into your skill set.


• There is never a good excuse for bad manners.


I know. Your manners are impeccable. You don’t need to be reminded to use your good manners every day, everywhere, with everyone. This little tip is just not needed. But just in case, pick someone you know who has especially good manners. Now, ask yourself if you are keeping up with the standard they are setting. If so, good for you. If not, you may want to work on that. It’s one way you can let other people know that you don’t belong in their blind box.


Good manners are a lot more than please and thank you. Observe thoughtfully, take mental notes and remember the thoughts and feelings you have about people who really do have impeccable manners. You’ll soon get the point.


• If it is to be, I’ll always take my good manners with me, putting them right out there for all to see.